Creative (un)makings: disruptions in art/archaeology
March 6 – June 21, 2020
Seen from the standard perspective of traditional academic and cultural subjects, art and archaeology have comfortable relationships: collaboration, co-inspiration, shared aims to advance knowledge of human behavior and thought. Art/archaeology, a new transdisciplinary practice has fractured that perspective, and the exhibition Creative (un)making brings that disruption to the museum world for the first time. Art/archaeology argues that writing and thinking about the past should move beyond existing boundaries of both disciplines, and that creative work should replace written texts and lectures. Art/archaeology opens a new space where creative work, thought, and debate expand in unexpected directions, and where we find innovative potentials for objects from the past.
Creative (un)makings: disruptions in art/archaeology presents this new approach to the past in three provocative installations. The first (Releasing the Archive) presents photographs and videos in order to turn upside down the standard values that museums and institutional collections use to preserve historic objects and images. The second installation (Beyond Reconstruction) displays an array of ceramic fragments that resulted from the construction/deconstruction of a figure; in addition it includes documentary photographs of the works, highlights the limits of the archaeological reconstruction, and opens a new creative space beyond. The third installation (Ineligible) takes artefacts from an excavation in San Francisco and uses them as raw materials in order to make new artistic work that stimulates museum viewers’ thoughts about modern political and social issues, such as homelessness and income inequality.
Releasing the Archive
In Releasing the Archive Doug Bailey violates the normal rules that museums, universities, and cultural institutions must obey when they preserve and protect objects and images. The installation is a record of Bailey’s destruction of more than a thousand 35-transparencies that had been held in an anthropological collection at the university where he works. That original archive included transparencies from professors’ ethically questionable studies of ethnicity, sexuality, animal dissection, and human reproduction. Bailey believes that each person captured in the images is alive, but trapped in his institution’s archive and in the transparencies themselves. In reaction against both the original questionable work and the internment of the people in the images, Bailey soaked the slides in diluted sodium oxychloride. The result was the chemical liberation of the people from their imprisonment, as well as the creation of eerily powerful images. The photographs in the installation show transparencies before and after the release of the trapped people; the videos record the moments of those liberations. The imagery is stunning: both aesthetically beautiful and a violation of curators’ standards of care.
International Museum of Contemporary Sculpture
In Beyond Reconstruction, Sara Navarro started with an anthropomorphic figurine from the Neolithic period of Eastern Europe, and removed it from its archaeological context. In this work, Navarro is not interested in the scientific literature about the artefact. Instead, her intention was to observe the figure, taking account of its latent features: shape, scale and material. Keeping shape and material (clay) unchanged, she undertook a super enlargement of the figurine, thus changing the scale of the object radically. In the second stage of work, she subjected the enlarged object to a process of deconstruction: breaking down the figure into many fragments by cutting the object in an extended series of cuts. The installation includes the photographic record of these processes, as well as the set of clay fragments that resulted from it. Beyond Reconstruction questions our commonly held assumptions about the processes of construction and of deconstruction, as well as the impossibility of reconstruction.
International Museum of Contemporary Sculpture
From 2010-2012, archaeologists in San Francisco excavated a city-center site in advance of the construction of a major new bus and subway station. The excavation recovered many thousands of artefacts. While a standard set of analyses and interpretation resulted from the project, art/archaeologist Doug Bailey gained control of a large number of the archaeological remains and designed a project to test the collaborative limits of artists and archaeologists. Working with Lisbon-based sculptor, Sara Navarro, Bailey sent assemblages of the artefacts to artists, archaeologists, and other creators. Accompanying the artefacts was the request for people to make new creative work, to use the artefacts not as historical objects, but as if they were raw materials (like pigment or clay), and to repurpose the materials to make artwork that would stimulate visitor questions and thought about a political or social issue of contemporary society. For people working in San Francisco, that issue might be homelessness or income disparity; for people working elsewhere, different local, regional, or national issues might be more relevant (such as immigration, or refugee status). Ineligible is a selection of the result of the works that were made.
Doug Bailey, Sara Navarro
Thomas Andersson, Doug Bailey, Jéssica Burrinha, Simon Callery, João Castro Silva, Shaun Caton, Rui Gomes Coelho, Jim Cogswell, Tiago Costa and Daniel Freire Santos, Ilana Crispi, Patrik Elgström and Jenny Magnusson, Dov Ganchrow, Stefan Gant, Cornelius Holtorf with Martin Kunze, Alfredo González-Ruibal and Álvaro Minguito Palomares, Cheryl E. Leonard, Nicola Lidstone, Marko Marila and Tony Sikström, Alison McNulty, Daniel V. Melim, Colleen Morgan, Sara Navarro, Jana Sophia Nolle, Laurent Olivier, Luisa da Rocha, Filomena Rodrigues, Suvi Tuominen, Ruth M. Van Dyke, Valter Ventura, Vanessa Woods
Shelter No. 365, Jana Sophia Nolle, 2019